Friday, August 30, 2019

Let's Get Cooking

Every day I watch thousands of packages make their way down a conveyor belt to be loaded into delivery trucks. As an employee at UPS I get a little glimpse of what's trending and what weekly Amazon Prime deals are being offered. In the past few months I've seen more boxes advertising home delivery meals. Blue Apron, Home Chef, Plated, Moms Meals, and the ever so popular Hello Fresh are just a few examples of what I've seen. As a mom who is burnt out from trying to plan and prepare meals I finally gave in and decided to give Hello Fresh a try.

The companies I mentioned above do not offer much information on their websites until you make your first payment. So I wasn't able to see all of the meal choices but with the option to cancel anytime I took a chance. After a bit of confusion I signed up for 2 meals per week that would serve a family of 4. The cost was around $64, which didn't seem too expensive. Well apparently I either signed up for 3 meals or I accidentally chose a third meal. The total cost was actually $96, which now seemed like a lot. 
Side Note: On an average week we spend $200 on groceries which includes all meals, snacks, cereal, drinks, etc.

 A few days ago we received our first Hello Fresh box and we were pretty excited to see what was inside. I must admit I had a bit of a negative attitude towards all of it. I was dwelling on the cost and the time it would take to actually prepare the meals. I wanted something I could just heat up and eat. Plus, I knew my kids, and probably my husband, would complain about all of the ingredients they didn't like.

Beef Ragu Spaghetti
Vietnamese Chicken Bowls
Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Meal 1

Wednesday night we tried the Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin upon hubby's suggestion. Everything was pre-measured and packaged separately into a brown paper bag. The recipe was super easy to follow and I had a lot of fun playing home chef. From start to finish it took a little under one hour to prepare. The images on the recipe card resembled my own and the aroma brought everyone to the kitchen. 

Potatoes with olive oil, salt & pepper

I cooked and he plated

Pretty and tasty

We served 5 people with a 4 serving meal. Most evenings we'll only have 4 eating but when daughter #2 doesn't have to work she joins us for supper. There was plenty of broccoli for me to eat but after this meal a few were still a bit hungry. So without an extra person, and if they all actually ate their broccoli, the servings would have been more than enough.

Meal 2

Thursday night was Beef Ragu Spaghetti. To me a pasta meal seemed like a waste of money through Hello Fresh. It's literally one of the cheapest meals you could possibly make. When I divided the 3 meals we received by $96 and came up with $32 per meal I immediately thought about how I could make my family spaghetti for under $10. However I use sauce from a jar and I don't add extras like the zucchini. 

Unlike the night before this meal made more than enough for 5 people and we even had leftovers. It was another successful meal that we all enjoyed! 

Ready to serve

I can justify the cost in many different ways but for me I loved that everything was all ready to go and completely planned out for me. I had a lot more cleaning up to do after supper but I felt good about serving my family a complete nutritious meal. When my girls were all younger and I wasn't as busy as I am now I loved to cook and bake. I've just been so burnt out and the last thing I want to do is struggle over mealtime. Tonight it's just me and daughter #5 so our last Hello Fresh meal will have to wait. 

Hubby said we could spend a little more on Hello Fresh meals if it meant I'd be cooking suppers again. Have I really been slacking that much? Honestly, yes. So maybe we'll continue our subscription, maybe we'll try a different company, or maybe I'll start meal planning on my own again.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Part 2

*WARNING: This is a true story told from my own perspective. It may be difficult to read as I've included some very specific details. The name of the man can be found in many news articles but I chose not to include it in my retelling of the story.

Day 3
The screaming continued. Alicia and I ran down a gravel path closest to our campsite that, unbeknownst to me, led right to a small lake. I thought eventually the screams were going to stop because someone would be helping the woman, but instead it continued and got louder as we got closer. Once we reached the rocky shore I could see E standing knee deep in the water screaming “HELP ME!” but there was something else she was saying. I stopped and tried to process what was happening. My first thought was that E was stuck. From the angle I was looking at her I thought she possibly sunk down in rock or mud and couldn't move. She was pointing at the water so I followed her direction and saw something small and white floating on the surface. Was it a hat? It couldn't be a person. My heart was racing but what she was yelling wasn't processing in my brain. “HELP ME! MY HUSBAND!” Wait, What? As I looked around the lake I saw only a few people but no one appeared to have any urgency. Still confused I started running again. Once I reached E there were a few people that had now made their way over. There was a bigger man in swim shorts standing to E's left, an older woman, and two younger girls in bathing suits. E kept screaming and the older woman was trying to calm her down. I started to get in the water but the man in shorts kept saying, "It's too cold. It's too cold. You can't go in." I finally looked directly into E's eyes and asked, "Is you husband in there?" as I pointed to where I then realized a dog was floating. She said yes.  I couldn't stand there knowing W was in that lake somewhere but then I thought I heard someone say it was just the dog.

What was going on? Was W really in the lake while we all just stood there. "I can't just stand here. Why isn't anyone doing anything?" I said. One of the girls got in the water and started swimming towards the dog. Thinking she was going to grab the dog and continue looking for W I got in the water and took the dog from her. She said thank you but didn't turn back. I climbed out with the lifeless dog in my hand. From the way it's eyes were bulging out of its head and its teeth were clenched together I was pretty sure the dog was gone. I'd never rescued an animal before so I really had no idea what to do. I know basic CPR for humans but not dogs. I started to squeeze its rib cage together hoping I could possibly help in some way. A man approached me, cupped one hand around the dogs nose and mouth, and began to blow. There was foam coming out of the dogs nose so the man wiped it away and gave a few more breaths. I'm not sure if the man told me it was too late but after a few minutes I was standing alone. I didn't know what to do. Do I put the dog on the rocks? Will someone take it from me? I must have continued compressing as I looked around for someone to tell me what to do. When I looked back down there was blood oozing out of the dogs nose and mouth. Then I noticed it was twitching. Was that involuntary movement or was this dog actually still alive? I turned to a woman who had said she was a nurse and asked her what to do. She took the small dog and placed her ear to its chest. "There's no heartbeat. Its gone." I softly laid the dog down on the rocks and turned back towards the lake. A few more people had arrived but no official emergency personnel. There were three men in kayaks, a ranger/police officer, and more bystanders. The ranger was in the water holding on to the end of one kayak asking for a PFD (personal floatation device). Once he finally got one he asked for goggles, a mason jar, or drinking glass to look down in the water. Nothing was readily available of course. The ranger station didn't even have basic water rescue equipment. So it was a mad scramble for Alicia and a few others to run through the campground asking people for anything that could help. The ranger asked for a second PFD because the one he had wasn't working. He had mentioned a few times that he was cold.

At some point while this was going on a woman approached and loudly announced that she had seen the whole thing. I heard her explain that W had tossed the dog in the water. When E started yelling for someone to help her dog this woman refused because "they threw the dog in themselves". So this woman and her husband told W and E to get their own dog and walked away.

Only one person, the ranger, was actually in the water and he couldn't even get a proper PFD. Finally when he requested a third PFD I asked if I could take the one he had on. I told him I was a firefighter and a strong swimmer. He handed me the PFD so I quickly put it on and got into the water. I quickly realized that the water was so clear you could see down to the 30' bottom. This lake had a quick drop off to 20', then 30', and at its deepest it was 60'. There was a slight current around the area where W went in. Not enough to make a person struggle but I think their small dog could've been caught in it.

Two male campers were getting in the water with kid goggles. I got my hands on a pair but shortly after one of the men very rudely said, "You have a PFD on and the goggles. Give someone else the goggles if you're not going to dive down." I told him I could dive down but I could see from above and there was nothing to dive down for. I gave him the goggles and kept looking on my own. A few minutes later a ranger told anyone without a PFD to get out of the water. This included the two who now had the goggles and sounded Canadian. They started arguing about how they were the only two with the goggles so they shouldn't be the ones getting kicked out. They said they would swim at their own risk. The ranger who had been in the water was now on a paddle board and very irritated. He yelled at the men telling them he was a cop and he'd cuff and arrest them if they didn't get out of the water. I tried to focus on the search so I kept my eyes on the bottom of the lake. Once I got closer to the ranger/cop he apologized to me for yelling at the men. He said we didn't need to rescue anyone else. I told him all he needed to say at that point was this was a recovery not a rescue. The man had been down too long and there was no sight of him.

A lady started yelling that she could see something floating in the water. We knew there was a pair of sandals floating around but the kayakers paddled over to the spot just to be sure.

After a bit I didn't see the ranger or the Canadians so I was the only one in the water with the kayakers. Why was I the only one in the water? I started to pray for a sign, show anyone a sign. I wanted God to help us find him. I didn't want W in that water. I didn't want E going through the night not knowing where her husband was in that lake. I thought of my own husband and how devastated I would be if it had been him in that lake. "God just please let us find him." I prayed over and over.

They had cleared the area. There were two ambulances in the parking lot that took 30-45 minutes just to get to Two Medicine. There didn't seem to be any sense of urgency though. I heard Alicia ask one of the kayakers to check on me because I was a "stubborn old mule". I told him I was fine and we continued to talk for a few minutes. He told me he was a registered diver but there was no gear available for him to use. 

They had called for their dive team and a helicopter for medical assistance but no one was coming. Two policemen were walking along the shore and I heard them trying to figure out why no one was coming to help. They asked me something and I just said I was fine and that I was a firefighter, hoping they wouldn't kick me out. The one chuckled and said he knew how that went. "We walk in the door and say "I'm a cop I have this under control." So I know how stubborn you can be." I assured them I was fine and I was on my way out because my fingers were starting to go numb. I explained that the current where I was swimming was a bit stronger and that may have pulled the man out further. The cop told me to stop swimming and just float. I did as he told me and began floating back out. He asked me how many knots I was going "Do you think 2?" I had no idea. I wasn't a Navy Seal. I kept swimming slowly against the current and finally the cop motioned for me to get out. Alicia brought me a towel and I slowly walked on the sharp rocks up to where the ranger was getting a statement from the witness who claimed to have seen it all happen. 

Emily had brought our rental vehicle and was waiting patiently on a bench by the parking lot facing the lake. She told Alicia and I to take our time and there was no rush for her to get back. I bent my knees and squatted down beside her. I could feel my chest getting tight as I began to feel an anxiety attack coming. All of the anger and sadness was about to start flowing but I knew I had to hold it together. Alicia said I needed to go to our site and change so I just turned and started walking. 

This is what I heard from the eyewitness. W and E were by the water when W threw their dog in. No one knows why he did this. E thought the dog was struggling and started yelling for someone to help. No one would help and the witness told them to get their own dog since they were the ones who threw it in. The witness left to go up to her car. By the time the witness had turned to come back down the small embankment to the lake W was in the water holding the dog above his head with both hands. W went under 3 times and never resurfaced. 

Here's what I think happened. Both W and E couldn't swim so they were trying to find someone who could rescue their dog. There weren't many people around so W thought he had no other choice but to go in himself. He thought that he could possibly walk out on the rocks (perhaps with his hiking shoes on) because there was a shallow section of rock along the shoreline. He more than likely hit the 20' drop-off and grabbed the dog. Without being able to swim and/or holding the dog with both hands W couldn't stay afloat.

I was sad and angry. I kept thinking of everything I could have done or should have done. I was mad that no one was willing to help them. I was mad the park didn't have basic equipment to assist. I was mad that I wasn't there. I was mad that W risked his life for that dog. I was mad that these two people who were probably very intelligent were utterly clueless. We failed him and most of all we failed her. His wife watched us all stand around and do nothing.

I changed into dry clothes and couldn't wait to get far away from that campground. We briefly spoke to Jim and Robin before leaving to bring Emily back. My birthday was the next day so Alicia said she wanted to bring me out for a nice supper at the lodge. I didn't think I'd even want to eat but then I realized I was actually pretty hungry. We tried not to talk much about what had happened what it was impossible not to. We contemplated staying at the lodge that night so we wouldn't have to sleep at Two Medicine again. We had to go back because our stuff was there. Plus, I wanted to say goodbye to Jim and Robin and I wanted to make sure E was being taken care of.

I didn't want my birthday to come. My birthday was suppose to be epic and jam packed with fun adventures. I wouldn't have put up much of a fight if I had to go home at that point. I knew the trip 
wouldn't be same.

We enjoyed our meal that didn't consist of granola bars. I was all about trying everything huckleberry and although I rarely drink alcohol I wanted to try the Huckleberry Margarita and Huckleberry bread pudding. Brain freeze but the desert was delicious!

Huckleberry Bread Pudding
After supper we returned to our campsite to try and get some sleep. Alicia decided she was going to sleep in the van for the rest of our trip (mom's on vacation and we get stuck with a minivan). Yahtzee a tent to myself! So, our plan for my birthday was to pack up early, head to St. Mary's campground where we would hopefully get a site, then drive the Going to the Sun Road all day. I needed a low key day.

Pray Lake

Friday, August 16, 2019

Uff da!

When I first moved to Minnesota in 1995 I promised myself I was never going to use the seemingly popular phrase "Uff da". Well, through the years daughter #3 has used the phrase more times then I can count. Since it's pretty cute when she says it I guess it finally grew on me. I don't say it often and I always find myself laughing after it escapes my lips. For those of you who are not familiar with this upper midwestern slang, here is one definition:
Uff da: A multi use exclamation that came from Scandinavian immigrants during the early part of the 20th century. If you're surprised you say "Uff da", if you're disgusted you say "Uff da", over worked? "Uff da"

So right now I'm saying "Uff da" as I jump back in to blogging. I've had so many amazing adventures since I last posted and even more so over the last year. Let's jump right in, shall we?

I've now officially been on 3 mission trips; Austria in 2017, Bulgaria in 2018, and India in 2019. Each trip has been absolutely amazing in such different ways. All of the people whom I've met have changed my life in some way or another. I will go deeper into each trip on a future post.

Last August for my big 4-0 I was hoping to do something really cool to celebrate. Daughter #2 scheduled both of us for a tandem skydive in Superior, WI. Now that was definitely something cool and unforgettable! Although she couldn't quite make it out of the plane I had no problem plummeting to the earth. I'm not saying I wasn't nervous, because once that plane door opened and the cold wind hit my face there was some fear. The free fall was the most intense but once the chute opened we just drifted quietly through the air. It was amazing! Trying to capture it all in my mind, in what seemed to be a very short amount of time, was nearly impossible. I guess I'll just have to skydive again.

He let me control the chute briefly

This year for my birthday I planned a 5 day trip to Glacier National Park in Montana! I had never been to GNP but I had seen many photos and knew it was a place I had to visit. A former manager of mine had been several times so he recommended a few chalets but I really wanted to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. That meant camping in a tent! If you're not familiar with how to secure a campsite in Glacier I'll give you a quick rundown. Most campgrounds in the park are by reservation only. These sites fill in March almost immediately after the website starts accepting reservations. For backcountry campsites an application needs to be filled out in addition to paying a $40 fee. This would need to be done months in advance, again preferably in March. However, each campground has sites that are strictly for walk-in campers on a first-come first-serve basis. We found Glacier's Campground Status page to be super helpful once we arrived. So basically the plan was just to wing it.

I decided to take the Amtrak train since it conveniently went right to East Glacier just outside the park. That way I didn't need to worry about my vehicle breaking down, getting a flat tire, fueling, stopping to use the bathroom a billion times, etc. Plus the train was cheaper than flying and I had never traveled anywhere by train. So, the only thing left to do was find a travel buddy. I mentioned my very loose plans to my friend Alicia and ultimately she agreed to go. She wasn't super excited about not knowing where we were going to sleep at night but she was a good sport. In all honesty we both thought it was pretty cool not having any set plans. It always works out in the end, right?

Day 1
Based on the scheduled arrival of the train into East Glacier I booked our first night at Sears Motel which was within walking distance of the train station. The plan was to get up super early the next morning and walk or shuttle to the closest campground hoping for a walk-in site. Well I didn't realize the entrance to the park was a little too far for us to quickly walk to and there weren't any shuttles available in that area. We spoke with the woman who owned the motel and she offered to possibly give us a ride to the nearest campground. She also offered us her backyard to camp in but that was a little sketch at that point. She totally reminded me of Cheyenne from the TV show Superstore. She told us we could try renting a vehicle at the Dollar rental just up the street. We had 15 minutes before the place closed so we had to hurry. We left our bags, hoping the woman was honest and trustworthy, and headed up the street. Now this is where we met one of the coolest chicks I think I've ever crossed paths with. We named her Hippie Emily but her real name is Emily! We told her about our lack of plans and our park transportation knowledge. Unfortunately she didn't have a vehicle for us to rent but she did offer to call us when something became available AND she offered to bring us to the Two Medicine campground early the next morning. Yahtzee! Emily told us she had a yellow bus that was just down the road in the campground where she was living and she'd pick us up at 7. She said it didn't go fast but it'd get us there eventually. We were stoked to ride with a cool chick in her hippie van!
The motel room was small and smelled of PineSol, the windows were all painted shut, and the shower didn't work, but we didn't see any bed bugs so we considered that a win.

Day 2
We slept fairly decent and woke early the next morning to get coffee and huckleberry bear paws at a little store called Brownie's that was across the street from the motel. Huckleberries are all the rage at Glacier! Emily arrived with her van so we hopped in and headed to Two Medicine in hopes of finding a campsite.

Emily's awesome van

She was kind enough to drive us through the campground so we didn't have to walk around with our heavy packs. This campground was self register, which meant if we found an empty site we could claim it by filling out a self registration envelope. We took the first site we saw open which was Loop A #30.

Our camp site with a mountain view at Two Medicine
We put the $20 nightly fee in the envelope and dropped it in the box for a ranger to collect. If we wanted to stay any more nights we would have to fill out another envelope and have it in the box before 10:30 AM. A few days later I learned there were spots available for people without cars (walkers and bikers) for $10 a night. However, we wouldn't have met all the people we did if we hadn't stayed at site 30.

We set up camp and headed out for our first hike. We checked some maps and decided to head to Aster Falls. After Aster Falls we followed signs to scenic point which took us to Aster Park Overlook.

Aster Park Overlook has a 360° view

It was a bit of a climb

After we hiked back down we asked a ranger about getting to Running Eagle Falls (a suggested hike Emily had made). It was a 2-2.5 mile walk down the main road which wasn't the safest route. So we asked about hitch hiking. It's not illegal so we figured we'd give it a whirl. I should say Alicia gave it a whirl because I just can't handle rejection. We hadn't walked very far when two ladies stopped and were more than willing to drop us off on their way back to East Glacier. The driver felt bad for us and said we looked tired. She was from Montana and had visited the park several times so she knew right where we needed to go. It was only a .3 mile hike to the falls.

Getting back was a little trickier. It was later in the afternoon and everyone seemed to be driving in the opposite direction from where we were going. Alicia and I were tired and whining a little as a few cars drove right by us. I think it was the third or fourth car that drove by so I threw my hands up in defeat and the car stopped. I started running and yelling for Alicia to hurry. We hopped in the back of a married couples car and found out they were staying in the same campground as us. Perfect! We told them we were almost out of water. The woman announced that they were drinking wine as the man flew up the road. She handed Alicia a water bottle and Alicia asked if it was wine. The woman laughed and said, "Oh no that's all gone." They seemed like a fun couple and we definitely appreciated the ride, but yikes.

Then we met Jim and Robin Berzowski, an adorable retired couple from Wisconsin (Packer fans). We started chatting with them about their GO camper. Coolest little camper I've ever seen. I would describe it as a cross between a tent and a pop-up camper. It's lightweight and durable. It can be converted into a utility trailer and Jim had to tell us about the add on tent. Guess what it's called? A GOzeebo. Jim laughed a lot, mostly at his own jokes, but it was great and so contagious. He was such a fun story teller as he has already collected memories for a lifetime. Jim and Robin have traveled all over the world and shared a few stories with us as well as fun facts they've learned. Do you know what a group of porcupines is called? A prickle of porcupines.
Jim offered to make Alicia and I coffee in the morning so we jumped at that opportunity. He told us it would be $5 a cup and more if we wanted milk in it. Such a silly guy!

To end the day Alicia and I grabbed our camp chairs and headed down to the lake to watch the sunset.  We soaked our feet in the cold water and watched the sun disappear behind the mountains. What a beautiful place to be!

Day 3
We woke up around 8, which was a little later than we wanted. Night temps dropped to mid 40's but during the day it warmed up quickly into the 80's. We wanted to avoid the heat as much as possible. We enjoyed our coffee with the Berzowski's who were planning their day. They wanted to ride the shuttle boat across Two Medicine Lake and hike back. Since Alicia and I couldn't go too far without a vehicle we decided we would do the same. The boat going out at 10 and 11 were full so we decided to hike to the other end of the lake and get the boat back. Our back up plan was to hike the entire lake loop which wouldn't have been too tough. I kind of wish we had hiked the whole loop.

Fun fact: Alicia talks to everyone! I'm not saying that's a bad thing but I'm just not that outgoing. She'd stop on the trail and just talk to anyone about anything. I finally told her that I had the bear spray and she'd have to stop talking if I kept walking. Yep I'm a jerk! She was also afraid of everything. Especially being eaten by a bear. If I pointed at something she would jump as if I was pointing to a bear. She got nervous when the hearty squirrels (could be a bear) rustled through the brush. The only reason I mention this is because without all her chatting we wouldn't have met the people we did. Everything that happened after this point just doesn't really make sense and maybe it never will.

We caught up with a couple that was stopped on the trail to take a break. I said hello as I walked around them but Alicia stopped and started chatting with them. We'll call him W and her E. Once we started walking again I told Alicia jokingly to stop talking to people, but now I'm glad she took the time for them. They both looked like they were enjoying their time hiking together as they continually smiled. They spoke some English but W seemed to speak and understand it better than E could. We were excited when we caught up to Jim and Robin on the trail but they had just encountered a bear.

Jim pointing at the 7,000 pound bear he just wrestled. 

They were both holding their bear spray and making noise. Jim said if we hiked together in a group we'd look bigger and be more likely to scare the bear away. We told Robin there was another couple behind us so we could have them join us too. As W and E approached Alicia started to warn them that there was a bear ahead and told them they should come hike with us. E started running towards us so we immediately told her to stop and not to run. She didn't quite understand what Alicia was saying. When they were finally with us we asked if they had bear spray and they said no. At that moment I thought "These people are oblivious! She barely understands what we're saying and they're hiking alone without bear spray." We suggested that they should stay with us for the remainder of the hike.
Once we made it to Twin Falls W and E had decided to head right to the boat launch while we enjoyed a snack at the falls.

One of the falls

The line for the boat was long but the park staff assured us they'd send the boat right back after dropping off the first group. The wait was about 30 minutes so we chatted with Jim and Robin, walked in the water, and I showed W some photos I took at the falls. W and I chatted very briefly as we continued to wait for the boat.

View from the boat

While we were getting on the boat a moose emerged from the trees and made her way to the water. It was a cow but still really cool to see as we made our way back across the lake. When we arrived back Alicia had a text from Emily saying she had a rental for us. We had very limited service in the park but luckily Alicia's was a little better than mine. Of course moms on vacation would get stuck with a minivan but we had no other options. Emily said she would arrive around 4 but we needed to give her a ride back. No problem. We decided we would just relax at our campsite while we waited for Emily. I was journaling in my chair, Jim and Robin headed out in their car, and the guy across from us came over to chat about our day. As we were talking W walked by with his little white Maltese dog. He looked surprised to see that we were staying in the same campground as him and his wife. He smiled, waved, and said hello as he kept walking.

About 10-15 minutes went by and I was fully engaged in my journal. That's when I heard the screams. A woman was yelling "HELP ME!" I looked up from my journal and asked Alicia what I was hearing. It was bone chilling and not far away. We both listened carefully to make sure we were hearing it correct. Alicia told me to grab the bear spray and we ran towards the screams. I wish I understood what was going on right away. I wish I had jumped in the water sooner. Oh how I wish I could've done more.

To be continued...

Let's Get Cooking